The studs are off the board, some friends and family are auto-drafting, and the computer projection can take care of the rest, right? If the computer can pick sleepers, then why not auto-draft too?
But what about that one young player who just hasn’t been in the (now corrected) right situation? The aging veteran who’s been to multiple Pro Bowls can give it one last “Hurrah!” They’re on the board and it would be such a shame to let the auto-drafter pass them up.
This is where knowledge of “sleeper picks” is essential to walking away from the draft knowing that only injuries can slow you down. Drafting the WR2/3 or RB2 on an NFL team late in the draft is a gamble, but it can be one of the sweetest feelings when you correctly pick a sleeper who goes off and establishes themselves as a star that year. Alvin Kamara in 2017. Antonio Brown in 2011. It’s a beautiful thing to call it right.
And everybody is sleeping on the Chicago Bears Darnell Mooney.
Formatting: This will be based on a standard PPR format with 1 QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, Team Defense, and 1 K. If you play non-PPR formats, kudos to you. Let us know your scoring rules in the comments!
Mooney finished his rookie season last year second on the Bears in targets, receptions, receiving yards, yards-per-catch (<4 receptions), and receiving first downs. With Allen Robinson II on the team, it wouldn’t be fair to expect WR1 stats from the former fifth-round NFL draft pick, but he shouldn’t be starved of targets, either. There isn’t anybody on this team besides David Montgomery who should challenge for a repeat as the Bears firm WR2.
This past season, Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles combined for 401 completions, of which Robinson ate up over a quarter. If the 2021 QB duo of Andy Dalton and Justin Fields is any better, which by all recent accounts say that it definitely is, then Robinson can crack 100 receptions and there will still be more pie to go around.
While a shallow league will make Damien Williams (#201 in ESPN player projections) available late, or a deeper league Jimmy Graham (#314 in ESPN player projections), these are still players who could see their playing time significantly reduced over the course of the year as players ahead of them in the depth chart eat into their targets.
ESPN has Mooney’s fantasy football projection at #129 among all players, with an outlook of:
Mooney was the 24th wide receiver selected in the 2020 draft, but the unheralded fifth-rounder ended his rookie campaign seventh in the class in targets and ninth in fantasy points. Mooney quickly locked down Chicago’s No. 2 WR gig opposite Allen Robinson and ended up with a solid 61-631-4 line on 98 targets. Mooney’s 61 receptions are tied with Tyreek Hill for fourth most all-time by a rookie not drafted in the first four rounds. His efficiency was poor (his 6.4 YPT was seventh lowest among 87 qualified WRs), but poor QB play was a major factor, as 23% of balls thrown his way were off target (14th highest). Mooney will play a similar - if not expanded - role in the same scheme with perhaps better QB play in 2021. Take a late flier.
While this mentions poor quarterback play, Mooney was among the highest in the entire NFL in uncatchable deep ball targets from his 2020 quarterbacks. If his quarterback can hit on even just a few of those misses, Mooney likely lands in top-100 players for this upcoming season.
Depending on the size of the league, Mooney could be available in the mid-to-late rounds. Unless your league has a fun guy who drafts all Bears players, look for Mooney around pick-100 if you were backed into already taking a wide receiver in the first round.
We’ll continue this series next week with a look at which Bears player to avoid in your fantasy draft. Each week of the season, we’ll give you a Start/Sit guide for Bears players on your fantasy team before the week kicks off. Next week, we’ll start the Windy City Gridiron Fantasy League, as well as other fun fantasy games such as Pick Em’s and Survival.
Let us know in the comments which Bears player is your favorite sleeper to watch for!
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